Interviews

Vanessa Van Edwards on How to Interpret Micro-Expressions

Do you ever find yourself wondering what someone else thinks of you? Or, perhaps you’d like to know how someone really feels about a particular situation? Most of us face these musings with little conviction, because the truth is that people aren’t always easy to understand. It can be difficult to confront people about their feelings, and can seem almost impossible to read emotions from facial expressions alone.

Vanessa Van Edwards, an expert in the field of human behavior, can help us with this problem. Through extensive research, Vanessa has discovered the key factors that drive people in their everyday lives, and has uncovered how to interpret the actions of others— even the most discrete micro-expressions. In her new book Captivate, Vanessa shares secrets for improving social interactions by learning more in-depth people skills and building stronger connections.

Watch the video below to hear Vanessa discuss what micro-expressions are, and learn how to interpret three of her personal favorites: contempt, real happiness, and disgust.

Transcription of Vanessa Van Edwards on interpreting three micro-expressions.

The art and science of speed reading is one of my favorite people hacks. And it has to do with the micro-expression.

So the micro-expression is a very quick, universal facial expression that everyone makes across genders, cultures and races. The thing is, is there are seven of these universal facial expressions. And when you know how to speed read them, you can often sense people’s internal emotions.

So I want to teach you my favorite three. The first one is contempt. So contempt is the simplest of all the micro-expressions. It’s just a one-sided mouth raise. Also known as a smirk. So most people mistake contempt for a half-smile or boredom.

But actually contempt is a very powerful emotion. It means scorn, disdain or pessimism. So watch out for that one sided smile or smirk because it does not mean anything positive.

The second one I want to teach you is the difference between real happiness and fake happiness. Anyone can do a fake smile. The difference between a real smile and a fake smile is when the smile reaches all the way up into the upper half of the face.

Specifically, the crow’s feet. So when I smile for real, you can see that smile all the way up into my eyes. Watch out if you see someone fake smiling or not using their upper cheeks.

The last expression that I want to teach you is called disgust. So this micro-expression is when we flash the upper whites of our teeth and crinkle up our nose. It’s the face we make when we smell something bad. So it looks like this.

You might be wondering, Vanessa, why would I ever see disgust. But actually, you sense or see disgust when someone is trying to think of a polite way to lie. So you ask someone, hey, what do you think of the new girl? And they say, oh yeah, yeah, she’s pretty good.

When anyone holds their face in that disgust micro-expression, you know that they slightly dislike something and you want to give them permission to give you the truth. I hope you use those three micro-expressions, because they can give you a great speed read into someone’s personality.